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Mr. FRANKEN. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Alaska and the Senator from Rhode Island.
I wish to emphasize the need to pass a long-term reauthorization of this surface transportation bill. It is time for Congress to do its job. Thanks to the leadership of Senators BOXER and INHOFE, this body passed a bill with 74 votes. Actually, it probably would have been 76 votes, but Senator Kirk is back at home recovering--and we wish him very well--and Senator Lautenberg couldn't vote that day. I think he was at the funeral of a friend. So it really would have been 76 votes. Unfortunately, our colleagues in the House were not able to pass a comprehensive reauthorization bill and were only able to join a conference committee after passing yet another short-term extension.
So I will repeat myself: It is time for Congress to do its job. As the Senator from Alaska, my good colleague, was just saying, the summer construction season is now upon us. In Minnesota, that is when we know we can build roads and bridges and light rail, because in November and December it gets cold and snowy.
State departments of transportation have already canceled projects because the House has failed to act. We have already lost thousands of jobs because, for whatever reason, the House will not pass a bill that received unanimous bipartisan support in the Environment and Public Works Committee and 74 votes in the Senate as a whole.
Speaker Boehner has said the House may just pass another short-term extension. But all of these extensions have whittled away at the highway trust fund--whittled it down to a dangerously low balance--and any further extension would put it in danger of going bankrupt.
This should not be controversial. This should not be partisan. Transportation and infrastructure have not been in the past. The Senate consensus bill simply maintains the current level of funding for our transportation system and streamlines many programs to make sure those investments are put to the best possible use. This is infrastructure that we need to stay competitive in our global economy.
Minnesota is ready to make these investments. Whether we are talking about maintaining our bridges so they are safe, expanding the new light rail system in the Twin Cities, or reducing congestion on our highways, these are projects that will create jobs now and strengthen our economy well into the future, as infrastructure always does.
On August 1 of this year, we in Minnesota will mark the fifth anniversary of a tragedy in our State: the collapse of the Interstate 35 W bridge in Minneapolis. The collapse killed 13 people and injured 145. That tragedy should have been a wake-up call in America and in this body. Bridges should not collapse in the United States of America.
If that was a wake-up call, the House seems to be content to have hit the snooze button and ignore the problem. Well, we cannot wait any longer. There is no reason not to pass this bill. Frankly, the Senate bill is the conservative solution. It is paid for, it consolidates many Federal programs, and it streamlines project reviews--all things that I have heard colleagues in the House ask for. The House negotiators need to work with Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe and the rest of the Senate conferees and come to an agreement both the House and the Senate can live with. If they can't or won't, Speaker Boehner should--as the Senator from Alaska just said--just take up the Senate bill and give it an up-or-down vote.
Let's prove to our constituents that we can come together and do what is right. Let's pass a bill that will create jobs for workers in our States and build prosperity for our future. It is time for Congress to do its job and pass a transportation bill without any more delay.
I thank my colleagues, and I yield back to my colleague, the Senator from Rhode Island.
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